Sony to start electric car firm as it ‘explores a commercial launch’

Sony has revealed plans to start an electric car company, making it the latest electronics manufacturer to target the automotive sector.

The Japanese tech firm is “exploring a commercial launch” of electric vehicles, and will launch a new company, Sony Mobility Inc, in the spring, its chairman and president, Kenichiro Yoshida, told a news conference before the Consumer Electronics Show in the US.

Yoshida on Wednesday presented a prototype sport utility vehicle, the Vision-S 02, which uses the same electric vehicle platform as the previously announced Vision-S 01, a coupe that began testing on public roads in Europe from December 2020.

“With our imaging and sensing, cloud, 5G and entertainment technologies combined with our content mastery, we believe Sony is well positioned as a creative entertainment company to redefine mobility,” he said.

An increasing number of consumer electronics companies have looked into targeting the burgeoning electric car market. The success of the US electric carmaker Tesla has made it into one of the highest-valued companies in the world, and has spurred a host of potential imitators, ranging from traditional automotive companies to startups.

Tokyo-listed shares in Sony Group rose by 3.7% on Wednesday, outperforming flat Japanese benchmark indices.

Electric cars present fewer barriers to entry for potential new entrants because they have fewer moving parts, while autonomous cars (which are still in development) are expected to open a new opportunity to sell entertainment and services to passengers.

Sony was the first company to commercialise the use of the lithium ion battery, which was invented by academics at the University of Oxford, and are now used by electric cars. The technology allowed Sony to become a leader in portable consumer electronics, such as camcorders, CD players and laptops.

The tech company’s operations span from consumer electronics such as the PlayStation games console, smartphones and TV sets, to entertainment including music, games, and film production. It also has a semiconductors business that already targets the automotive sector.

Apple, the consumer electronics firm that this week became the first company to hit a $3tn valuation, is aiming to produce a self-driving car by 2025, according to a November report by Bloomberg.

Yet CES has also highlighted that the traditional manufacturers will not give up their market share easily. On Monday, Mercedes-Benz revealed a concept car that it said could cover 620 miles on a single charge, enough for a journey from Brighton on England’s south coast to Inverness in northern Scotland without stopping.

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